Zengzi said, “Every day I examine myself on three counts. When working for others, did I fail to do my best? With my friends, did I fail to be trustworthy? Have I practiced what I preached?”
Zixia said, “If you can appreciate character more than beauty, serve your parents tirelessly, give all of yourself in service to your ruler, and keep your word to your friends—though other people may say you lack learning, I would say you are very well-educated.”
Confucius said, “A leader who is not serious will not be taken seriously. Still, don’t be inflexible. Take loyalty and sincerity as first principles and don’t make friends with someone who isn’t your moral equal. When you make a mistake, don’t hesitate to fix it.”
Zengi said, “To be competent, but to learn from those who are less able. To know a lot, but to ask for advice from those who know little. To have something, but seeming to have nothing. To be full, but to seem empty. To be harmed, but not to seek retaliation. I used to have a friend who worked at these things.”
Confucius said, “Stand firm in doing your best and sticking to your word. Don’t make friends with people who aren’t your equals in this. When you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to correct it.”
Confucius said, “Just because someone can learn with you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can walk the Way with you. Just because someone can walk the Way with you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can walk by your side. Just because someone can walk by your side, that doesn’t necessarily mean they can join you in acting with moral discretion.”
When he asked about the well-being of a friend in another state, Confucius would bow twice before sending the messenger away.
When a friend died and had no relatives to take care of the funeral, Confucius would say, “I’ll have the funeral in my home.”
When a friend would send him a gift—even something as lavish as a horse and carriage—he would not bow in acknowledgement unless it was sacrificial meat.
When Yan Hui died, the other students wanted to give him a lavish funeral. Confucius said, “It’s not proper.” The students gave Yan Hui a lavish funeral anyway.
Confucius said, “Yan Hui looked on me as a father, but in this matter I couldn’t look after him as a father should. This isn’t my fault, friends, but yours.”
Zigong asked about the way of friendship.
Confucius replied, “Be honest with your friends, and show them the right path with skill and tact. But if they’re unwilling to listen, just stop. Don’t humiliate yourself.”
Zengzi said, “The noble person makes friends through an interest in culture and refinement. Together, they cultivate humaneness.”
Confucius said, “If you can’t keep company with those who steer the middle course, you have no choice but to turn to the reckless and the timid. The reckless will rush into things headlong and the timid will hold back from some things.”
Zilu asked, “What must a person be like to deserve to serve in government?”
“People who are critical and demanding, but also kind, are worthy to serve in government,” Confucius replied. “Critical and demanding of friends, and kind toward brothers.”
Zigong asked Confucius about humaneness.
Confucius replied, “The craftsman who wants to do his work well sharpens his tools first. When you live in a state, serve its most worthy officials and make friends with its humane scholar-officials.”
Confucius said, “There are three kinds of friends who can help you and three kinds of friends who can harm you. Friends who are upright, trustworthy, and learned—these will help you. Friends who are devious, brown nosers, and smooth-talkers—these will harm you.”
Confucius said, “There are three kinds of pleasure that will help you and three kinds of pleasure that will harm you. The enjoyment of cultivation in music and ritual, speaking well of others’ good points, and being surrounded by friends of good character—these will help you. The enjoyment of self-importance, loafing, and going overboard in feasting—these will harm you.”
Bi Xi called for Confucius, and Confucius was tempted to go.
Zilu said, “I remember you saying, ‘A noble person won’t associate with someone who is committing evil.’ Now Bi Xi is about to use his stronghold in Zhong Mou to start a rebellion. How can you even consider joining him?”
Confucius replied, “Yes, I did say that. But what resists grinding is truly strong and what resists black dye is truly white. Should I be like a bitter gourd, hanging on a string as decoration but not fit to eat?”
Students of Zixia asked Zizhang about making friends. Zizhang asked, “What did Zixia teach you?”
“Zixia taught us, ‘Associate with the right kind of people and avoid the wrong kind.’”
Zizhang replied, “I was taught something else. I was taught that the noble person respects the worthy and tolerates the ordinary people. The noble person applauds the good and takes pity on those who have a hard time being good.
“If I’m worthy, who can’t I tolerate? If I’m not worthy, people will surely avoid me, so on what grounds could I avoid them?”